Be a part of a collaborative online project! Transcribe our letters!

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Have you tried our transcription software yet? Transcribe allows anyone to transcribe documents that are found in Acumen. Maybe you need to transcribe the letter for your research and want others to benefit from your work as well. Or maybe you’re a history buff who really enjoys reading old letters and wouldn’t mind typing out what you read to help others who aren’t as good at reading old-timey handwriting. Maybe you want to be a part of a collaborative online project. Maybe you’re just bored. Any of those things are great reasons to contribute to this project!

Currently we have letters from 2 different collections in the transcription software. The first collection is the Septimus D. Cabaniss collection. Cabaniss was an estate lawyer in Huntsville, Alabama, before and after the Civil War. He was involved in the proceedings of a high-profile estate case, in which a wealthy land owner wished to leave his estate to his slaves, some of which were his children, prior the Civil War. We hope to get some of the slaves’ letters into the software soon, but right now you will find letters discussing various other cases Cabaniss worked on, as well as letters about farming and life in 19th century Alabama. This collection was digitized through our mass digitization method, which means we do not have any identifying information provided about the individual items. So your help transcribing would provide valuable information for our users!

The second collection in the software is the William Crawford Gorgas Collection. William Crawford Gorgas was a United States Army physician and later the 22nd Surgeon General of the U. S. Army from 1914 to 1918. You may recognize Gorgas’ name, as his mother was Amelia Gayle Gorgas, whom the main library at the University of Alabama is named after, and his father Josiah served as president of the University. William Gorgas became well-known for his work with yellow fever. During the Spanish American War, Gorgas was appointed chief sanitary officer of Havana, Cuba, where he eradicated yellow fever by controlling the mosquito population. As a result of this success, Gorgas was assigned to create sanitation plans in the Canal Zone during the building of the Panama Canal. While many of the letters from the Gorgas collection are typed already, having a transcript of them allows for full-text searching of the items.

In case you need it, here’s some step-by-step instructions on how to use our transcription software:

On the left side of the Transcribe home page, find a letter you want to transcribe by either doing a search, browsing items, or browsing collections.

If you choose to search or browse items, you will get a list of items. Simply choose the one you want by clicking on the title or the thumbnail. If you choose to browse collections, click on the collection in which you are interested. This will take you to a page that provides a description of the collection. Just below this description is a link that says “View the items in [chosen collection]”. Click this link to get a list of all the items from the collection in this software and choose the one you want.

Once you have gotten to the page of the item you chose, scroll down to the heading “Transcribe This Item” and select the image with which you would like to start. On the item’s page, look for the heading that says “Current Page Transcription.” If there is already a transcription for this item, it will appear below here. If not, click on Edit to create a transcription. Use the tools to the left of the image to zoom in or move the image around.

Enter your text in the box that appears. When you are done, click the box that says “Edit Transcription” to save your changes.

Congratulate yourself on contributing to the project! Job well done!

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